Bat Week 2019: Remember to thank the bats for our durian!

The last week of October is official International #BatWeek! It takes place from the 24th to the 31st. Download press kit here.

It’s an opportunity to celebrate all the many different ways bats are awesome, and to remember why we humans need them, and also to overturn the prevailing negative images and associations with bats that get particularly ramped up during this time of the year.

Bats are NOT scary, spooky, creepy, or evil. Bats are helping us! To kick off Bat Week 2019 and explain how exactly bats help people in Southeast Asia specifically, Project Pteropus has produced this informative and educational video on how durian trees get pollinated by fruit bats. Using watercolour drawings by local artist Novia Shin, and animated by Penang-based production company Hatchtag Media, it was made possible through partnerships with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Year of the Durian, Green Acres Orchard, Cintai Tioman, the Southeast Asian Bat Conservation Research Unit, and Mabuwaya Foundation – thanks to grants generously provided by the Rufford Foundation, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Habitat Foundation.

This video is also available in Malay and Mandarin (Simplified Chinese subtitles). If you would like to obtain a copy for your own non-profit conservation outreach or environmental education purposes, please contact Sheema.

Happy Bat Week and let’s look forward to the next durian season when we can #thankthebats again!!

 

Publication update 21: Project Pteropus press release: Durian Industry May Suffer Without Endangered Fruit Bats

Flying foxes pollinate regionally important fruit crop

Kuala Lumpur, 19 September 2017 – Scientists here have discovered that Southeast Asia’s highly popular durian tree is pollinated by locally endangered fruit bats known as flying foxes.

By putting camera traps in durian trees on Tioman Island, Malaysia, researchers collected video evidence showing the island flying fox (Pteropus hypomelanus) pollinating durian flowers, leading to the production of healthy durian fruit. The study has just been published in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

Fig.3
Still shots from a video recording of a flying fox feeding on durian flower nectar.

The spiky tropical durian fruit is highly prized throughout its native region. A ubiquitous icon of Southeast Asian culture, it is also a lucrative industry, generating millions of US dollars in local and international trade. And these economic profits owe a huge debt to bats.

Commonly referred to as flying foxes, large fruit bats of the genus Pteropus are severely threatened by hunting and deforestation. They are often sold and eaten as exotic meat due to an unsubstantiated belief that consuming them can help cure asthma and other respiratory problems.

On top of this, they are also persecuted and killed as agricultural pests, as some people claim that the bats cause damage and economic loss by feeding on cultivated fruits. Consequently, these factors have led to severe declines in flying fox populations worldwide.

Yet these bats actually play very important roles as seed dispersers and pollinators in rainforests, especially on islands. The disappearance of flying foxes could thus have disastrous repercussions for tropical ecosystems. Now, this international team of researchers from Malaysia, France, India, and Thailand, in collaboration with Tree Climbers Malaysia, has found that Southeast Asia’s durian supply could be affected too. Continue reading

Project update 21, publication update 19: Project Pteropus delivers results!

Sheema completed her PhD in Ecology last November, when she successfully defended her thesis at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. Now comes the good part: sharing the results, data and information from her research! We’re happy to announce that 2 new papers from her thesis just got published this month.

Fruit bats are important ecosystem service providers, pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds over long distances. Instead of protecting these useful flying mammals however, humans are threatening their survival through hunting and persecution.

Finding out what flying foxes eat is a first step towards discovering what flowers they pollinate and what seeds they disperse. This will help strengthen the cause to promote their protection. Project Pteropus started investigating this question in 2015, and now, the results of the analysis are finally out! We’ve made a first start towards answering the question of ‘What do the Tioman Island flying foxes eat?’

Identifying flying fox food plants by collecting and analysing droppings

PeerJ image Continue reading